cover image The King of Ragtime

The King of Ragtime

Larry Karp, . . Poisoned Pen, $24.95 (296pp) ISBN 978-1-59058-526-9

Set in Manhattan in 1916, Karp's well-crafted second homage to ragtime (after 2006's The Ragtime Kid ) charts Scott Joplin's race against time and the effects of a ravaging illness to secure his musical legacy. Joplin has written a musical play that he wants Irving Berlin to publish and produce. In the past, Joplin has accused Berlin of plagiarizing his music, but Martin Niederhoffer, a piano student of Joplin's and an employee of Berlin's firm, persuades Joplin to try Berlin again. When Niederhoffer and Joplin are seen fleeing the scene of a murder, they're forced into hiding while Scott's friend Nell Stanley, a musician, and her music publisher father try to find the real killer. Going undercover at Berlin's publishing company, Stanley proves to be a formidable detective, though her investigation uncovers some painful truths about both Joplin and her father. Karp's meticulous research helps create a vivid picture of the time and locale. Memorable, authentic characters are another plus. (Oct.)